6 Unexpected Causes Of Dry Skin, So You Can Get To The Root Of The Problem

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There are certain causes of dry skin that we, in general, are aware of, but there are also many other unexpected causes of dry skin that are part of our daily lives. As the winter approaches, I — a New Jersey girl — begin to cringe thinking of how the cold weather will dry up my skin. Every year it's especially painful for my hands and knuckles, which end up drying and cracking throughout the cold months. I'm constantly on top of the hand lotions and any other trick I can cook up to keep the skin on my hands, as well as my face, feeling soft and smooth.

After dealing with horrible bouts of dry skin for so long, I began doing some digging into what some of the other, more obscure causes of dry skin might be. Now that the winter is nearly upon us and those of us likely to get dry skin are in fear, it's a perfect time to plan for it. By coming to terms with why and how our skin gets dry, it can be incredibly helpful in correcting and preventing it. Here are six unexpected causes of dry skin that you've possibly never considered.

1. Smoking

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Not that I need to give you a reason to quit smoking — I’m sure you have a million just off the top of your head — but stop for a moment and also consider the damage it’s causing your skin. According to dermatologist Dr. Michael Taylor, smoking is the second most destructive skin problem, second only to the sun. According to Dr. Taylor, smoking constricts the skin’s blood vessels causing “oxygen starvation.” This then leads to dryness of the skin (in addition to premature aging).

2. Genetics

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For a long time, I always just associated dry skin with the weather. This is obviously not true, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was genuinely shocked to learn genetics plays a part in skin dryness as well. According to EverydayHealth, a study out of Scotland showed people with certain gene mutations suffer from drier skin and an increased chance of developing eczema.

3. Frequent Hand Washing

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Germ freaks beware! Excessively washing your hands can make them extremely dry. According IntegrativeHealthcare.org, healthy skin has a slightly acidic pH. That said, when it’s exposed to alkaline substances found in hand soaps, it messes with the skin’s balance a bit. Constant washing, therefore, increases imbalance and makes the skin super dry. To help combat the dryness, consider washing your hands with cream-based cleansers and using lukewarm water. Top off the process by using a moisturizing lotion before your hands completely dry off, as the dampness allows for better absorption.

4. Constant Air Travel

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If your job requires you to travel quite a bit, it’s likely you’ve noticed a change in your skin due to flying. Why? The air in an airplane moisture-free, and therefore it draws moisture from wherever possible, including your skin. An easy way to help with this is by applying a hydrating toner to your face before and after each flight.

5. Alcohol

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What a bummer for us social ladies, but sadly this is totally true. According to HuffingtonPost.com, consumption of alcohol causes the skin to dehydrate — in addition to the dehydration effects it has on the body in general. If you’ve ever woken up after a night of drinking to see your face has a sunken-in appearance, this is why. According to

Dr. David Colbert, founder of New York Dermatology Group, alcohol is a “toxin to the cells that detoxify your body.” Doesn’t sound very good to me. Before you grab that next drink, think twice about your skin.

6. Your Overall State Of Health

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While some of the other causes mentioned above are things we can easily manage on our own, it’s important to take into consideration that sometimes dry skin can be our body’s way of telling us that something really just isn’t right. If your skin is appearing very scaly and red, it could actually be a skin condition such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. Also, it could be a symptom of diabetes or an underactive thyroid — both of which should be treated by your doctor. If you’ve tried avoiding dry skin triggers and have tried a variety of moisturizers to no success, it’s likely time to visit your dermatologist to get to the bottom of the issue.

Having dry skin can certainly seem like a dreaded experience. However, by considering some of these unexpected causes, we may find we have the tools to keep our skin happily hydrated.